Over 3,500 women in Northern Ireland made use of the Pharmacy UTI service between March 2022 and April 2023
Thanks to the Pharmacy First service, women in the UK can now be assessed and treated for uncomplicated Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) much sooner by local pharmacists without having to wait for a GP appointment.
In Northern Ireland, more than 400 community pharmacies are now providing the UTI management service, which is available for women aged 16 to 64, according to the Department of Health NI.
In a statement released on Tuesday (5 December), the department ensured the public that all community pharmacists providing this service are qualified healthcare professionals with the training and ability to test and treat UTIs.
The participating community pharmacies will offer a confidential consultation in a private area where patients can discuss their symptoms with the pharmacist, who may test the patient’s urine to help determine if a UTI is present.
Self-care advice may be only needed in some UTI cases, but the community pharmacist can also supply the patient with medicines to relieve pain and if appropriate, an antibiotic, when necessary.
All women with urinary tract infections (UTI) visiting participating community pharmacies will be advised what to do if their symptoms worsen or do not resolve, the department added.
“Urinary Tract Infections can be extremely uncomfortable and it’s thought that up to 50 per cent of women will experience one during their lifetime,” said Joe Brogan, Assistant Director, Pharmacy and Medicines Management, Department of Health.
Not only the Pharmacy First UTI service does away with the need for a GP appointment, but women can be assessed and treated much sooner as “community pharmacies are more likely to be open after normal working hours, at weekends and bank holidays,” he added.
Be aware of UTI symptoms
Women are advised to watch out for symptoms of a UTI that include: burning or stinging sensation on passing urine, needing to pass urine frequently or urgently, cloudy urine, and passing excessive or large quantities of urine.
The acceptance of the UTI management service has increased significantly in Northern Ireland, following the positive evaluation of a pilot that involved around 60 pharmacies since July 2021.
Stephen Toland, Pharmacist at Murphy’s Pharmacy, Derry who has been providing this service since 2021 said: “The feedback from patients has been overwhelmingly positive. They’re really happy that they are able to get same day advice and treatment from a health professional all close to home, for a condition that can be very distressing.”
Over 3,500 women in the country benefited the pilot service between March 2022 and April 2023. Following assessment, more than 85 per cent of these women were diagnosed with a UTI and received appropriate advice and treatment from the pharmacist.
During this period, more than 5 per cent of patients were referred to their GP or Out of Hours service.
Patients do not need to take an appointment for the Pharmacy First UTI service, they can simply request a consultation with a pharmacist of the community pharmacists providing this service.
However, Pharmacy First for everyday health conditions is available at all community pharmacies in Northern Ireland, the health department informed.